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FIRE ON ICE

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Angela’s Ashes, if not Frank McCourt’s blushes, are to be spared on Long Island.

A Rockville Center bar and restaurant owner said this week that he would not be staging a burning of the Frank McCourt bestseller, despite an earlier pledge to do so.

Dave Crowe, who co-owns three branches of Lily Flanagan’s on Long Island, stated in an ad placed in the Irish Echo last week that Angela’s Ashes would be burned in protest against the book’s depiction of Limerick.

Crowe, a Limerick native whose father was a member of Limerick City Council, urged “proud Irishmen and Limerick men” to gather at his Rockville Center Lily Flanagan’s to burn copies of the book at noon on Saturday, March 11.

The book burning ad caused an immediate transAtlantic media sensation. Crowe told the Echo this week that he was inundated with hundreds of calls from individual people and the press.

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“Within a few hours of the ad going out in the Echo I was getting calls from the media in London. There was a man on from the Guardian newspaper. The BBC were on and wanted to film the burning,” he said.

But Crowe said that he had never intended to burn copies of “Angela’s Ashes” in the first place.

“The burning idea was a tool we used to use the media as a vehicle to get our message across that many proud Irishmen, and women, are deeply upset at the portrayal of Limerick in Angela’s Ashes.

“It was never our intention to burn anything. But if we had just said we were going to bash the book at a meeting, nobody would have paid any attention.”

The threat to burn books prompted widespread anger and upset. Crowe spoke on the Radio Free Eireann show last Saturday. Callers to the show compared his book burning plan to burnings by the Nazis in the 1930s. Other callers, however, characterized the burning as an act of free speech. Callers to the Echo also expressed shock and outrage and there were plans afoot to mount a counter-demonstration outside Lily Flanagan’s during the “burning” protest.

However, Crowe said that “ninety nine percent” of the calls he had received had been positive.

“We got hundreds of calls at the three Lily Flanagan’s. The bartenders were protesting to me that they were getting so many calls that they had no time to pull pints.”

Crowe denied that he was simply after publicity for its own sake and vowed that a protest other than a burning would take place in some form on March 11.

His anger over the book, he said, was further fueled by the just released movie version of “Angela’s Ashes.”

“It tried to destroy the image of Limerick. He (McCourt) didn’t even come from there. He came from New York City. He knocked the Vincent de Paul, the Jesuits and his mother. He hated Limerick, his mother, Ireland, the church and his school.

“A little pride is involved here. When I saw the movie it really took the biscuit,” Crowe said.

The book burning threat prompted blanket coverage in Irish newspapers including the (Cork) Examiner, Irish Independent, Irish News and Limerick Leader. The Irish Times carried a front page report last Saturday.

The latest brouhaha surrounding “Angela’s Ashes,” a literary sensation now spanning four years, followed in the wake of a recent virulent attack on the book and movie by Limerick native and actor Richard Harris.

Frank McCourt, meanwhile, could not be contacted for comment by presstime.

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